Candidate Questionnaire – Juan (JJ) Gonzalez, Harlingen Commissioner District 1

Juan J. (JJ) Gonzalez

Age: No response

Occupation: Real Estate Broker

Years in Community: 41 years

Family: Single with four children

Community Involvement: Harlingen Crime Stoppers, Boy Scouts, Texas Youth Commission, Catholic Youth Organization, Catholic Youth Organization, Homeless Coalition, Assumption Church, National Association of Realtors, Texas Association of Realtors, Harlingen Board of Realtors and Special Commendation Commissioner

1. How would you describe the city’s current financial situation, including the property tax rate, assessment levels, sales tax receipts and overall development and direction of the city? (200 word limit)

Sales tax receipts are improving and that is a good indication of a city’s economic status, but is still not in line with other cities. We need to closely monitor the Convention Center and hotel projects to make sure they are successful since we have high stakes investment in them.

We need to encourage major companies with high paying jobs to locate here. I emphasize the need to be pro-active vs. reactive.

Since we have political lobbyists on the state and federal level, I believe we need business lobbyists to lure major companies or corporations to look at Harlingen and set up shop here.

I will propose the idea of having a grant coordinator or grant writer dedicated solely to obtaining grants for different departmental needs and concerns in our city.

This position will eventually pay for itself once funds start rolling in. There are many state and federal funds that can be tapped into.

The Texas Enterprise Fun set up by Gov. Rick Perry is there for future business ventures or endeavors. It benefits us to evaluate and revisit the projects we are currently funding as well as do organizational assessment to ensure we are prudently and diligently spending our taxpayers’ money. If elected, my goal is to work with the mayor and the other city commissioners to make sure this happens.

It is imperative that we continuously promote efficiency and avoid operating in “business as usual.”

2. Specifically what are the city’s short-term and long-term infrastructure needs and how should city officials address these matters, specifically financially? (200 word limit)

There are several infrastructure needs that we need to focus on. Numerous streets need maintenance and improvements, not to mention the alleys. The Community Development Grant Program through HUD money allocations can alleviate some of these problems but can only be done in certain areas.

The street maintenance fee can cover some but more is needed. Railroad crossings have been a dilemma for some time now.

During my previous term as city commissioner there were funds allocated for the relocation of the railroad switching yard. That project needs to be looked into to find out what the status is.

3. By the time this election is over, the Convention will likely have had its Grand Opening. What are your opinions about the convention center? What concerns, if any, do you have about the Convention Center and its future finances? (200 word limit)

I would like the Convention Center to succeed as it will play a major role or part in our city.

We need the close cooperation of local hotels, motels, businesses and its citizens to help make it a success and make it self sustaining. Promotion and marketing should be a priority.

We have to realize that we have competition in other cities.

My main concern is that we have to tap into the city’s reserves to help make payments on it. Not to mention that the hotel has missed its completion date.

It will have to be managed well and monitored closely.

4. Downtown property owners are facing better than 50 percent property assessment increases, likely leading to higher taxes. What do you think about these assessments and can the city do anything about this situation and what is the impact as the renovations on the Baxter Building are completed? (200 limit)

I am against the 50% assessment increases. We need to look at the possibility of proposing caps for appraisal values and tax increases. Some of our business owners are barely in the black and then get slapped with a tax increase.

These businesses play a vital role in making the downtown area a viable destination for shopping. The city commission and the Chamber of Commerce need to work jointly together to tackle this situation.

5. The outlook of malls around the country is dark and gloomy and Valle Vista has seen its share of changing and leaving anchor stores during the past couple of years. What can and should the city do to save Valle Vista or should any efforts by the city be made to save it occur at all? (200 word limit)

Valle Vista Mall needs a major revitalization effort. Each vacant stall or cubicle represents loss of jobs and loss of sales tax revenues.

Throughout the years, it has served our local citizens and our friends from Mexico as well.

A coalition or committee needs to be formed and composed of members from the Chamber, EDC, CVB and local business people to brainstorm with the new management team to discuss different ideas, concepts and proposals to improve this situation.

6. Are there any issues you believe are key to Harlingen, that haven’t been asked here? How would you address them? (100 word limit)

To improve the economic state of our community there are other issues that need to be addressed.

The racetrack needs our support and attention for it to become a more sought after tourist attraction. We need to try in conjunction with our state legislators to enable the track to accommodate 8-liners in their facilities to attract more customers and visitors.

We should help entrepreneurs with their start-up businesses or ventures through the “incubator” system — an incubator being an office building or facility which provides cubicles or office spaces for people who wish to be on their own and start a business.

Guidance and support will be provided while they run their business. Perhaps the Baxter building or the mall could be an excellent location for this type of endeavor.

7. Why should voters choose you in this election? (100 word limit)

I have demonstrated my commitment and dedication to my community through my involvement on several advisory boards and civic organizations. I have previously served as city commissioner for six years.

So, I have the experience and I understand the importance of working with the entire community.

As a real estate broker and a businessman I deal with people with different backgrounds on a daily basis and I hear their concerns.

I am also a citizen of this great community and an extension of them.